Symptoms of Depression in Adolescents
During the preteen and teen years, it can sometimes be difficult to know whether your child is dealing with a mental or behavioral health challenge such as depression, substance use or bullying, or if the changes in behavior you’re seeing are simply a matter of your child going through a natural transition. However, it’s important to begin a conversation to find out what is going on in order to know how to best help your child. It’s especially important to take note if several symptoms are occurring in combination, or are occurring over a prolonged period of time. Even if they’re not dealing with a serious issue, taking the time to talk with them can still be incredibly beneficial.
Some of the most common signs and symptom of depression in adolescents can include the following:
- Feelings of hopelessness, emptiness, sadness,etc.
- Feelings of anger, irritation, or frustration even over minor situations
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Overreaction to failure or rejection
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Memory lapses
- Preoccupation with death or suicide
- Negative or pessimistic outlook on life and the future
- Loss of interest in or lack of pleasure from favorite activities
- Disconnection from family and/or friends
- Increased conflict with family and/or friends
- Excessive fatigue
- Changes in sleep habits including insomnia or increase in sleep
- Changes in appetite
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Increase in food cravings
- Using alcohol and/or drugs
- Decline in academic and/or athletic performance
- Increased isolation
- Excessive absences from school or other regular activities
- Changes in personal appearance and hygiene habits
- Risky behavior, disruptive behavior, acting out
- Making a suicide plan
Sources of Depression in Adolescents
The cause of depression in adolescents can vary from one individual to another. There is no one single universal source of depression. However, some of the following factors can play a role.
Traumatic events in childhood can impact an individual’s brain in a way that makes them more likely to deal with depression. These events can include abuse, physical violence, sexual assault, severe accidents, war, natural disasters, death of a loved one, and witnessing violence. If an adolescent has experienced early childhood trauma, it’s important that the treatment they receive for depression is trauma informed.
Depression is more common in individuals with blood relatives who deal with depression. If their parent or grandparent has gone through depression, a child can be at greater risk.
Neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin play a major role in regulating mood. When neurotransmitters are imbalanced or deficient, depression can result.
During the preteen and teen years especially, hormonal changes can affect mood and contribute to depression.
Adolescent depression can be caused or aggravated by habits of negative or unhealthy thinking. When faced with challenges or difficulties, some youth will work to find a solution, whereas others will remain stuck in the problem, which can lead to depression.
How to Help Adolescents Experiencing Depression
- Begin a conversation with them. Visit our “Talking With Youth About Depression, Self-Injury or Suicide” page for guidance.
- Create a prevention and intervention plan as a family.
- Visit our “Treatment and Support Resources” page to get connected to professional help.